he’s coughing in the bathroom, a gut-wrenching spluttering that rents the quiet like a gunshot. even with the water running, i think i can almost hear his saliva sloshing through cracks in his teeth, the way his tongue rolls the wetness in his mouth. he’s been in there for exactly 17 minutes, and i know that any minute now he will emerge and join me on this bed.
there is mingled dread and anticipating seeping through my nerves, weighing down my limbs clumsily as I cross and uncross my bare legs. i want to look alluring and mature, but i can’t help but feel like my knobby knees are giving everything away. damn ugly legs to wear under skirts. damn pale legs to showcase in this summer heat. i used someone else’s photo in my ad. she had long, tan limbs and lush curves. sheila gave me this bronzing moisturizer that was supposed to mask my skin with a healthy glow. instead, i’m still as pale as marble, now with the added inconvenience of chunks of gold glitter sticking to the sweaty hollows behind my knees.
i don’t think he will notice or care that i am young and nervous. when I stammered out my rules, his heavy-lidded eyes stayed blank and expressionless. he wasn’t what I had pictured, a wiry man in his early 40s who was almost attractive. i try to romanticize it. try to think that he is a weathered, tired soul who has been through a gut-wrenching divorce. i try to imagine his shoulders shaking with silent sobs as he signs the papers.
i want to believe that i can heal these silent hurts.
i tell myself this, as he comes back into the room. he takes out a worn leather wallet and counts out $100 bills mechanically, placing them on the chipped, yellowing nightstand. the minutes trickle down like hours, and i clamp my hands down behind my legs to keep them from shaking. "you can charge more 'cause you're young," sheila told me enviously. "just don't tell 'em you're 16. all men wanna fuck their daughters, they just don't wanna know it."
i try to straighten my shoulders, try to look older, more appealing. he barely notices, barely even sees me as his eyes lock onto my tits.
"i don't want to talk," this man says to me, as he climbs into bed. the springs squeak, the mattress sags.
he kisses me awkwardly on the shoulder first, and i close my eyes as his fingers travel down my hips and tug insistently at my underwear. i can feel his arms trembling. i finally relax. he reminds me of my last boyfriend, high school teenage fumbling in a baseball dugout at night. i remember that night as if it were yesterday, matt anderson sweating nervously as we mimicked what we had seen in movies.
as the man leaves hesitant, sloppy kisses across my torso, our eyes meet briefly. i smile at him, i want tell him that he is safe with me. that i understand his basest needs. that $600 will buy him a kindred spirit. i want to tell him that i am just as nervous as he is.
i open my mouth to say these things, but this man on top of me clamps his hand down hard across my face.
he is no longer shaking, no longer scared.
there is a hard, blazing look in the lines of his face as his other hand reaches up and closes around my throat.